7th annual Oxi Courage Awards with North Korean defector and human rights activist Ji Seong-ho (middle)
Two prominent advocates of freedom and human rights were honored on Thursday at the 8th annual Oxi Day Courage Awards, held at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington DC.
The award is given by the Washington Oxi Day Foundation, an organization that commemorates and promotes the courageous Greek “Oxi” (“No”) to fascist forces during World War II, while working to improve Greece’s international perception today.
The Oxi Courage Awards event brings together current and former senior U.S. policymakers and other international opinion leaders and influential Washingtonians, along with prominent Greek-American figures.
In the spirit of the Greek heroes of World War II, the awards ceremony celebrates modern heroes of freedom and democracy who display the “Oxi Day Spirit” despite facing tyranny and oppression.
In this year’s ceremony, the foundation honored Vladimir Kara-Murza, Vice President of Open Russia and leading activist for a civil society and democracy in his country, who has been poisoned twice by his enemies and survived.
Kara-Murza started as a journalist and later was elected to the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition in 2012, and served as deputy leader of the People’s Freedom Party from 2015 to 2016. He currently acts as Senior Fellow to the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights and recently served as a pall bearer at Senator John McCain’s funeral.
The second award recipient was Liu Xia, widow of China’s most prominent human rights advocate, Nobel Laureate, Liu Xiabo. Liu Xia was freed in July 2018 after serving eight years in house arrest without any charges levied against her. She has also faced death threats.
Xia is a Chinese painter, poet and photographer. She married her late husband while he was imprisoned in a labor re-education camp in 1996. As her husband’s link to the outside world, Xia faced pressures from Chinese authorities for publicly voicing her opinions. She was jailed and persecuted, but persisted in following her noble ideals.
“These are exemplary stories of the modern day David versus Goliath,” said Andy Manatos, founder and president of the Washington Oxi Day Foundation. “Our honorees are heroes who stood up to crimes against humanity and through their tireless efforts, they shone a spotlight on injustices. Historically, the Oxi Courage Awards event has brought to light the brave actions of these valiant revolutionaries before they are recognized by an even larger audience.”
“We are grateful to the Oxi Day Foundation for creating an award that links brave freedom fighters in the world today to the example set by the Greeks in 1941 when they answered the Nazi demand for surrender with a defiant and courageous ‘no’,” said Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy. “By creating the Oxi Courage Award they have found a way to give voice to the voiceless and hope for people fighting for freedom in some of the darkest corners of the world.”
Past recipients of the award include:
2017: North Korean defector and human rights activist Ji Seong-ho who 3 months later featured in the State of the Union address
2016: Vice President Joseph R. Biden and son Beau Biden (posthumously)
2016: Escaped ISIS sex slave, UN Goodwill Ambassador and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nadia Murad (nominated by Amal Clooney)
2015: Leading human rights activist imprisoned in Azerbaijan Leyla Yunus (nominated and introduced by Bono)
2014: Journalist James Foley, just weeks after becoming the first American executed by ISIS. (President Bill Clinton introduced Foley and Jim’s parents accepted the award)
2013: Journalist John Githongo, who risked his life fighting corruption in Kenya. (nominated and introduced by Bono)
2012: Blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng whose US-aided escape from China led the world news in the spring of 2012